President Hosni Mubarak made an unannounced visit to Iraq Saturday carrying a message from President Bush to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to assure him the West has not embarked on an anti-Iraqi campaign, officials and diplomats said.
Arab diplomatic sources said Mubarak's meeting with Hussein was primarily aimed at "calming down the situation in the Middle East, and to avoid any miscalculations in the region."Hussein and other leaders of Iraq's powerful Revolutionary Command Council gave Mubarak a red-carpet welcome at Saddam International Airport in Baghdad. The event was televised on state-run Iraqi and Egyptian television.
Mubarak's surprise visit followed unconfirmed reports that Iraq had moved troops and heavy armor closer to the Jordanian border, some 200 miles from Israel. But military experts in the Middle East dismissed the possibility of conflict between Iraq and Israel at this point.
Hussein had pledged to wipe out half of Israel if the Jewish state tried to repeat a 1981 bombing raid on an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction near Baghdad. Israel is widely believed to possess both chemical and nuclear weapons, while Iraq has said it does not have nuclear weapons.
Tension between Iraq and Western states grew after Hussein last month sanctioned the execution of a London-based journalist on spying charges. Relations deteriorated when British customs agents foiled an Iraqi plot to smuggle U.S.-made triggers for a nuclear bomb.
Mubarak's visit to Baghdad came a day after the Egyptian leader defended his Arab ally from attacks in the West.